About us and the boat

About us and the boat:

We were lucky enough to retire early at the start of 2013 so we could head off and "live the dream" on board our Nordhavn 47 Trawler Yacht. The idea is to see some of the planet, at a slow 6 - 7 knots pace. There are no fixed goals or timings, we just had a plan to visit Scotland and then probably the Baltic before heading south.

The Baltic has been postponed as we didn't manage to see everything we wanted to in Scotland during our first year owing to family issues. The idea is to visit the nicer areas in these latitudes before heading south for warmer weather. If we like somewhere, we will stay for a while. If not, we will just move on. So, for the people who love forward planning and targets, this might seem a little relaxed!

If anyone else is contemplating a trawler yacht life, maybe our experiences will be enough to make you think again, or maybe do it sooner then you intended!

The boat is called Rockland and she is built for long distance cruising and a comfortable life on board too. If you want to see more about trawler yachts and the Nordhavn 47 in particular, there is a link to the manufacturers website in our "useful stuff" section. For the technically minded, there is a little info and pictures of the boat and equipment in the same section


Richard and June

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Glenfinnan and a little Caledonian Canal revisit

The little hire car was busy again, we felt that we had to visit the Glenfinnan area and see the memorial to the Jacobite rebellion. We also wanted to get up closer to the amazing railway viaduct that we had crawled over in the train a couple of times.

The monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie and his supporters sits at the top of the loch looking a little like the leaning tower of Pisa - yes, it now has a list.... For information on the monument, have a look at National Trust website :

It sits at the head of Loch Shiel, where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed. He couldn't have picked a better setting really:

We tried to imagine how that area would have looked with a horde of warlike highlanders camped out. Riskier than attending an SNP meeting for the average English guy we guess.

The viaduct is still impressive from the land rather than the train although the scenery kind of overpowers it:

Apparently it was one of the earliest large scale concrete structures.

We also revisited the Caledonian Canal which we had cruised with Andrew and Linda two years ago. This time we walked the area around Neptune's Staircase - the flight of locks at Banavie which was totally empty. No boat traffic at all in what should be peak season. We also walked around Fort Augustus and the flight there was busy - probably because the organisation of the lock keepers there seemed as bad as when we went through. Here is a gaggle of hire cruisers heading up (if that is the correct collective noun - perhaps a scrape or a scuff or a confusion is better?):

Perhaps our future possible job list has expanded now. As well as managing the shambolic Dunstaffnage Marina we could try to sort out the way they operate the flight of locks here. Interesting how things don't seem to have changed in the two years since we were on the waterway.

Blog reads - an update

Well, having mentioned that the potential Mossad reader seems to have vanished or spoofed their home country, the Russian secret service is very very busy. We don't believe that  1,800 posts were read from that country in the last 7 days. nor do we think that a denial of service attack on a silly little blog is likely. So, someone from Russia is having some fun - perhaps someone banned from the Olympics with unexpected time on their hands and still hyped up on drugs?

A hint for you - even if you manage to find our password for editing the blog, it will not work for any of our bank accounts so you are wasting your time. Go and annoy some Nigerian scammers instead.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Ardnamurchan lighthouse, just not from the sea this time

One of the reasons for getting some wheels was to explore the area and all those places that you cannot easily get to using public transport. Around here that means everywhere - the buses run once a day and go to Fort William in the morning. So if you want to go west, you have to wait for it to return mid afternoon. Then the run back east to Salen is the following morning at around 07:50. Things are more than a little limited when you use the bus.

The drive to Ardnamurchan point was scenic and the lighthouse itself well worth visiting. When passing out to sea we felt that the natural grey looking granite finish was a bit sad compared to most of them that are painted white.

Well, close up the stone is a nice pinkish colour - it came from Mull. Apparently Stevenson the designer liked the colour and didn't want it painted - see our earlier post on the lighthouse at the top of Lewis / Harris island for another example. The walk / trek to the top of the tower (about 121 steps according to the lads who were counting them) is more than paid back by the views. The light itself had the original 1849 Fresnel lens replaced in the 1980s, but with some very low tech kit! The lamps are basically car headlight equivalents in two long bars, with smaller motorcycle sized ones at the ends. Replacements are kept in a box up there:

When we are out to sea at night we will think of those little 6 volt headlight things and how we can see then from 24 miles away. The captain's degree in physics should help him to understand that of course but it was a long long time ago.

Stevenson designed the lighthouse in Egyptian style for some strange reason - perhaps because he could and was spending someone else's money? This is reflected in the little image at the entrance to the tower, on the newel of the staircase:

The panorama across the islands from the top is way way better than you can capture by camera:

This is the most westerly place on the mainland of the UK. We passed the most westerly part of England several weeks ago - Land's End.

The old foghorn which is no longer in use starts to look a bit sad and unloved but it has a glorious shape:

The area around the lighthouse is very scenic and unspoiled - an old volcano crater and very few houses,  sheep,  phone boxes or roads.  We drove out to the beach at Senna but sadly the sun had gone in by then:

Still a good spot though and the lack of sun wasn't putting off the visitors or dogs enjoying the calm water and white sand. On the way back, you get to see the remains of the edge of the old volcano crater and a nice helpful sign explaining it all:

Luckily it is very very extinct.....

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Hire cars and pottering around the area

Well, what to do. Loch Sunart was as stunning as the pilot book said (even if the analogy was pretty useless) and the local area had to be worth exploring. We walked the local forest area and loved it. So, a hire car was needed. The nearby supplier (Loch Shiel garage) upset us with their pricing which was at the top end of anything we had seen. They also won no brownie points with their telephone enquiry handling. "I will need these documents and this proof and you will have to do x / y/ /z" were almost their first comments on the phone after telling us how much. The icing on the cake was wanting to charge £5 on top of the already exorbitant hire charge to collect us (5 minutes drive away). Enterprise "we pick you up" they most certainly are not.

In a fit of pique about their rather money grabbing ways, we got a car from Fort William Car Hire instead. Even with the cost of the bus trip to Fort William, it was still cheaper and the owner, Jamie, was great. Collecting us from the bus station (for free) and taking us to an immaculate little office and workshop, we were handed a car that was not that new (71K miles) but that was one of the tidiest and cleanest we've had. Jamie deserves to do well.

So, we pottered around the Ardnamurchan peninsula in a Seat Toledo diesel quite happily.

Firstly, the bus trip to Fort William though, we get ahead of ourselves. A little Mercedes 33 seater that had to thread its way around the single track roads and then across the Corran Narrows ferry too:

Martin, the driver was clearly known by all the regular travellers, people he passed on the road, ferry staff, passing dogs etc etc. Mind you, when you drive the one bus a day to Fort William and keep it at home overnight, you must become famous. The twisty roads got the better of one visitor to the area - an emergency stop was needed for him to regurgitate his breakfast. The unfazed Martin just gave him a rubbish bag, kitchen towel and some wet wipes in case of further excitement. Clearly, this isn't abnormal behaviour on his bus.

On the way back to Salen, we stopped off to enjoy some of the scenery which we had travelled through by train on our Mallaig to Fort William trip. It was easier to get some pictures this time, no grubby Scotrail train windows in the way:

We also called into Glenuig. Wow. Quite a bay:

Yet again, the possible anchorage area within the bay was full of mooring buoys including two for visitors that are way too small for us. Another spot we will not be able to stop off in.....

When we got back, the boat seemed happy to see us:

and perhaps a little lonely.

It is all very relaxed and friendly here. In fact Jan the owner remembered that we needed a new 6 Kg propane cylinder to replace our empty spare and came to say that she was then putting in an order for gas and could get us one, probably by the next day! Sure enough, it arrived. Amazing service in the almost middle of nowhere.

By the way, we like the new houses and architecture around here. Some imaginative places with big picture windows and not a hint of grey rendering. Way better than the Outer Hebrides offerings. Perhaps they have one enlightened architect living here who is saving the place like Manrique did in Lanzarote?

Monday, 25 July 2016

Tobermory to Salen

Not trying to suggest that there had been lots of rain, but there is quite a waterfall into Tobermory bay. Someone must have been busy at high water from their dinghy painting these white yacht outlines on the adjacent rock:

Quite a quirky thing to do:

Although we were happy here, amongst the unusual artwork, folks had told us how nice Loch Sunart was. So, after raiding the Co-op again (no proper shops expected for a few days!) we decided to test it out. The only problem was more low cloud that kind of spoiled a view that the pilot book calls "One of the most picturesque of west coast lochs, with successive ranks of mountains and islands arranged as in a Victorian engraving of highland scenery".

Indeed. Have you seen any Victorian engravings of highland scenery that would help you picture this vista then? Strange comment in a modern book - we hope that the sailing directions are better and more up to date than the author's analogies....

We didn't get to fully enjoy the "successive ranks" as the cloud base had dropped down to the top of the hills. Instead we had an atmospheric trip up the loch, twisting and turning to avoid the odd rock (most unmarked):

The trip didn't really finish in the middle of the loch. The AIS tracking service obviously gave up when we were truly in the middle of nowhere - we stopped in Salen bay which is the bay shown on the map below Acharacle. Some nice Yorkshire born folks have put in some moorings there to supplement the old stone jetty (another Thomas Telford construction from around 1820) and were very welcoming, joining us on board for a coffee when the rain started (of course) and telling us about the local area. A walk around the bay in the evening gave some pretty loch views and made us appreciate the quiet beauty of the area:

Spotted the Nordhavn?

We kind of like it here. Might take some time to do a little exploring

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Tobermorying about

After the excitement of the Mull highland games, we needed a calming down sort of day. There is only so much excitement that old folks like us can have per week and we were rapidly approaching overload. So, we wound down with a nice walk along the bay. After the overnight heavy rain, the path was a bit "interesting" but worthwhile as you get some great views of the bay and town:

You also get to peek at a Nordhavn on her mooring:

It looks curiously exposed and it is to anything with north in it. The one good thing about the return of the normal series of low pressure systems heading over Scotland is that the winds go back to the south / west....

Those of you with good memories might recall that Tobermory was basically shut on our last visit. Well, the Post Office which was "closed due to holiday and staff shortage" has morphed into a new building and is very much open again. The Hydro Board (local electricity company) appliance showroom has fared less well and the "shut due to staff holiday" building is now permanently shut and available for renting. Fancy opening a big electrical store here? If so, just send us the setup money instead please, a marginally quicker and less painful way to lose it.

After 3 nights out on a mooring buoy and with the promise of rain, we wandered over to the pontoons and deposited ourselves on an empty hammerhead. This would help with shopping (we need to drag back some important stuff like wine from the little Co-op), water fill up and tempt us ashore between the showers. At least that was the theory. The shopping happened, the showers killed the walks. Still, there is always plenty of maintenance and chilling to do.

Some folks who we met two years ago on a Colvic motorsailer (that they rescued after 11 years on the hardstanding with no use or maintenance) pitched up and berthed just inside the hammerhead. Unfortunately that evening, some charter yacht idiots tried to put their boat into a gap just ahead of the Colvic that was clearly too small. Even with the bow tied to the pontoon, their anchor overhanging the cockpit of the yacht in front and this situation at the stern, they still didn't give up:

After a good ten minutes in the rain, they finally realised that this quart would not fit into the pint pot of pontoon available and backed out. Not sure how many scratches that gave poor Lady Clair in the meantime. Some folks just want what they want, even when it is clearly impossible.....

By the way, in the last week there have been 564 page reads originating in Russia. We know that the Nordhavn looks like a naval vessel but honestly Mr Putin, we are not worth wasting one of your missiles on. Patrick is relatively harmless.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Tossing cabers

The sun tried a little harder so after launching the RIB we pottered ashore. The waterfront was as colourful as ever:

We wandered into the harbour office and were amazed. Jim the moorings man was as friendly and helpful as he was obstructive and miserable when we were here a couple of years ago. He asked if we were off the the Mull highland games - didn't even know that we were here on the one day of the year that they take place! So, a walk / stagger up the steep hill to the golf course area and we joined the crowds enjoying some big guys chucking stones and telegraph poles around, running races, dancing competitions and, of course, a huge beer and whisky tent which you can see at the back of the photo:

The stone chucking guys were big and scary:

and perhaps a little bit balletic too? Impressive balance. The dancers managed some serious elevation and balance too:

and even landed nicely afterwards. As for the caber tossing..... Well, this guy sort of staggered forwards after managing to pick it up but not much more happened afterwards:

Still, he managed to pick it up which is better than 99.5% of the spectators would manage (captain most definitely included in that). This guy was more impressive, managing the full end over end thing with the caber:

For those of you with a broadband link, here is a video of how the current world champion does it:

The world champ, an English guy, was beaten into second place by an American. We guess that Nicola and her SNP clan are not amused about a national sport being taken over by outsiders. Another reason Nicola can cite for independence perhaps?

Luckily for her, the pipe bands were all local and pretty good too:

They brought the event to a close and we then wandered across the golf course area (probably not allowed) to get some great views down the Sound of Mull. Keen Nordhavn spotters with the ability to enlarge this picture on their screens might just spot us:

Not too crowded really. All in all an unexpected treat and great fun. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Mallaig to Tobermory

The promised rain happened. Shame that they had to get that bit of the forecast right. Our departure was timed brilliantly - the rain started and a couple of ferries decided to arrive / depart just as we were ready to leave. That meant a little hanging about. The captain decided that he could leave our berth helming inside the pilothouse. The crew commented that handling the lines from inside was not as easy and put her full wet weather gear on. A few comments were made as well, but not to be reported here.

The trip around the (in)famous Ardnamurchan point was to be grey, gloomy but relatively calm. We did the right thing and timed it to arrive off the point at slack water - getting tidal help all the way down there but then having to push the tide up towards Tobermory. The SW'ly 4 to 5 didn't drag up any waves that could tax a Nordhavn on a mission.

As you can see, the Ardnamurchan lighthouse and point looked a little different to the pictures from our north bound trip:

At least the waves were not big....  Arriving in Tobermory, we found some nice new mooring buoys and after checking picked up the captive line and settled down inside. A little rain still and more promised so no big "going ashore plans".

Of course, the forecast had to be a little bit wrong - here is the evening view across the bay:

The trip takes around 6 hours and apart from avoiding a few fishing vessels and a few pot markers was very straightforward. Just grey.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Invernessing then Kyle of Lochalsh to Loch Nevis and Mallaig

Despite the rain and greyness, we saw a little weather window emerging and so squelched up to the train station to take the trip to Inverness. This had proved hard to plan as the train crews were on strike on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The strange "drivers to open the doors" dispute that has gone on for ages. The views form the train (when it runs) are stunning - even with a  grey background. The only less than stunning bit were the two 15 year old girls form Skye sitting opposite us. One had a very loud voice that projected well.  Sadly it just kept doing that and she would loudly talk about anything and everything - we can confirm that she is unlikely to join Mensa.

Although we'd done some entertaining stuff whilst there, it was time to move from the rather exposed mooring since, finally, a dry and warmer day was forecast. A total reverse of the weather earlier in the year where Scotland was in sun and the south of England was flooded. Recently it had been our turn to suffer a little but today a bright yellow thing was peeping out from the word go. Of course, the word go is pretty late for us compared to many working folks.....

Everyone had perked up a lot after the recent deluges. The view of the Skye bridge had improved dramatically:

The Faroese folks on the slightly broken converted MFV used the time to dry out everything they could find it seemed. Perhaps their deck isn't as watertight as one would like:

We were impressed that people who live on islands that are normally between 4 to 11 centigrade and where the climate varies from wet to extremely wet, have shorts and sleeveless T-shirts. Tough race. The women seemed entranced by the multitude of jellyfish around us too:

Perhaps compared to the staple diet of salt fish they had on board jellyfish look active and appealing?

En route south (planning to head to slightly better weather, we have kind of assumed that summer "up north" is now over!) we were rapidly overtaken by Hugh McCaig, the Ecurie Ecosse man in his flying machine. The stabilisers went on so we didn't fall at a funny angle into the large hole in the water that his copious diesel burn was creating:

Heading out of the narrows, we touched 10 knots over the ground at a pretty normal 1475rpm cruise (ie about 6.3 through the water). Sadly, the captain was just too slow with the camera so this image of the flybridge plotter was taken a little too late but you get the idea:

9.9 knots is still impressive. Luckily the little ferry went across ahead of us - no idea how we could have stopped for him really. We made a litle detour into Loch Nevis en route to. Nevis = heaven by the way. The nearby loch is called Loch Hourn and that means hell. Hence the little village on the peninsular stands between heaven and hell.

At the entrance to Loch Nevis, a statue of "Our Lady" welcomes you / protects you looking a little lost amongst the dramatic scenery:

The Loch itself is very scenic and if the wind had been in a different direction it would have been a good spot to anchor (although as usual, all the really good anchoring spots have been filled with feeble 15 ton moorings. Grr.)

We happily trundled into Mallaig and took up a nice hammerhead berth. We even managed dinner outside in the aft cockpit. Wow. Summer returning perhaps? Then we looked at the longer term forecast and realised how wrong we were.

It was just so nice to have a full trip on the flybridge again and to feel warm so all was well with the world.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Portree and a little more of Skye (although it nearly didn't happen)

After a day hunkered down avoiding wind and rain and watching a yacht on the outside of the pontoon area try to climb over it with every wave and gust of wind (they had a horrid time!) the forecast for today was not as grim. Grim, just not as grim. Still force 7 from time to time and from the worst direction for our mooring spot too but less rain. Well, less meant "not pouring all the time".

We went mad and booked the Scottish Citylink bus / coach thing to take us from Kyle of Lochalsh to Portree on Skye. There is a small bus terminus come turning area just off the main road so we deposited ourselves there with suitable excitement levels. Sitting in the little bus shelter (it looked a lot like the baggage reclaim at Barra airport, just dirtier and with broken glass) we patiently waited for the coach. Then we saw it go past on the main road gleefully heading towards the bridge. Was there another one running at about the same time that doesn't stop here? No, the locals were also worried. The day was starting so well. In fairness we hadn't had a jellyfish meets genset moment whilst the generator was making nice hot water for our showers earlier on, so it could have been worse.

A few minutes later, the bus reappeared, coming back from the direction of the bridge and pulled in. The driver said "I bet that I had you worried".

He was right. It transpired that he had never driven the route from Inverness to Portree before, didn't know that there is a turn off in the Kyle for the "terminus" and went past before a local lady on the bus told him that "we normally turn in there and then wait for 5 minutes in case people want a loo break". Guess what - he had already used up the 5 minutes with his diversion.

The rest of the trip was fun - the lady told him that he had to go down into Kyleakin and where to turn. She then told him where each of the bus stops were, which way to go into Portree and where to pull in there. Without her, we have no idea what would have happened as the only other locals on board were exceedingly elderly and chatted away in Gaelic to each other (or maybe it was seagull speak?) The driver was clearly English and slightly lost.

No matter, the views through the rain were gorgeous, especially of the Cuillin mountains. Well worth the trip. Arriving in Portree it was simply hammering down. So, plan A was invoked - visit the two nice places we had found on TripAdvisor and pick one of them. The Seabreezes restaurant down by the harbour won as, we discovered, did we. Excellent lunch, lovely service and atmosphere:

The outside doesn't look that special but if you are in town, go there. See restaurant website.

After a suitably leisurely repast, the rain had stopped and so we could enjoy the town and harbour area a little. Harbour sounds grand - it is a bay with a pier really. We could see that the advice we'd had from local boaters was right - the bay is full of moorings, not much space to anchor at all and apparently not good holding either. Pretty mind you:

Not a place to try out our nice new Rocna in a force 7 just in case.... The coach mystery tour was a way better transport solution.

When the rain started again, it was clearly tea and cake time, Wandering around earlier we had spied the "Central cafe" with big signs saying "Free WiFi and Dog friendly":

Having queued on the stairs for a table, we found that they were not people friendly though. When we made it to the front of the queue, a grumpy woman announced that "we only serve lunches at this time" (3:15pm!!) so no tea and cake for us. If in town, don't go there is our advice - the crew reported that the cake looked very boring anyway.....

Instead, we had a great time in Arriba where they did an excellent carrot and ginger cake. We cannot put it into our cake top spot of course - that comparison has been reserved for pure carrot cakes so far - but this stuff was great.

Another wander around, enjoying a hint of sun too, then it was time for the same driver and bus to take us back. This time he was more on the ball - although when tourists asked "do you go to" he had to look it up on his route information thingy. Stagecoach Inverness who run the service and all the antique buses in the area are clearly not the most organised or well funded operation.

The nice rain and wind showed little sign of abating for the next 2 days. Still, Patrick was enjoying his view of the Skye bridge through the pilothouse windows and the rain:

As long as he is happy, all is well on board.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Extruded jellyfish / Walking across the sea to Skye

Since they had been nice enough to build a bridge for us, it seemed appropriate to take advantage of it.  So, as the day was supposed to be a nice one we planned a walk across it to Skye.

We didn't head off as early as planned though. Like last year, our genset was murdered by a jellyfish..... It just shuddered to a stop when the high temperature sender in the exhaust kicked in. The captain investigated and found lots of nice white jelly stuff in the strainer basket that filters the water heading to the genset. Learning from last year, this was removed and cleaned out with gloves on.

The genset fired up, but would not suck any water through. Hum. Perhaps the impeller was trashed. No, a new one was fitted but the impeller was not visibly damaged from the brief dry running spell. It looked like the outside strainer, the one fitted to the hull itself, had some jellyfish remains in it. How to remove them? Well, the flexible pipe that runs from that skin fitting to the strainer did not want to come off. No way. It was hanging on for dear life and not wanting to put too much strain on the skin fitting (a leak there would not be good, especially as no boatyard in this area could lift our weight out of the water) that plan was abandoned. So, we had to blow it through from much higher up - inside the strainer itself, using an elbow fitting that could be pushed into the inlet port of the strainer and a hose fitted to that.

Deep joy, but it worked. The genset ran, was stopped, the residual jelly gunge cleaned out of the strainer again and all was well. The captain popped to tell our Swedish neighbours that the Nordhavn version of the national grid was back up and running for them and then, the genset stopped again..... This was getting tedious - another jellyfish? The area is infested with the things. Luckily it was just a few more remnants of the first one.

So, a delayed walk across the bridge followed. Plenty of seals about and an otter sighting too. The views from up there are wonderful. The entire panorama in both directions is very special:

This is looking down Lochalsh.

Once on Skye (a first for us), we walked to Kyleakin and had a very pleasant lunch at the Tripadvisor number 1 cafe - Harry's. Of course, there are not hundreds to choose from but it seems that Kyleakin is a bit of a tourist coach place. We avoided the large cafe that they all seemed to frequent.....

The local war memorial is a great viewpoint:

The harbour is supposed to have some visitors berthing on the pontoon but it was full of local fishing boats and not at all tempting. The old mooring dolphins have a sign that kind of says it all:

As always, there is a local ruined Castle (this one is Castle Moil) and it would have really dominated the village:

It was nice to get the legs working again and to "christen" the island.

During the evening, a Faeroe Islands based MFV conversion was dragged into the pontoon area by the local inshore lifeboat - the little RIB struggled trying to swing the heavy old MFV against the wind and tide so Hughie, the moorings and trip boat man, came to the rescue and pushed the substantial bow in using his boat:

The rescuers are hidden on the other side of the MFV by the way. Apparently the prop shaft coupling bolts had sheared - a serious lack of "go" afterwards of course. It was reported that they had a "larder" stacked with salted fish so they will not go hungry whilst waiting for repairs. We doubt that Kyle of Lochalsh has many suitable beefy bolts in stock so they could be around a few days.